Review: And God Created Burton by Tom Rubython
Myrtle Press, €35
Published 28/05/2011 | 05:00
While famed for his passionate relationship with Elizabeth Taylor, the legendary Welsh lothario is said to have slept with 2,500 women in his heyday between 1947 and 1975.
Remarkably, even though Burton was married during most of this time, his insatiable sexual appetite meant he still found the energy to sleep with three women a week for almost 30 years, according to Tom Rubython's new book And God Created Burton.
Burton's sexual odyssey began in 1944 when he lost his virginity at 18 to a mature student he met in a pub while at Oxford University. This encounter unleashed the sexual beast within Burton.
Desperate to satisfy his newfound sexual craving, he tried his best to romp his way through the entire female population of Oxford, until his family, alarmed by his promiscuity, pressurised him into marrying Sybil Williams. But Burton's desire was more than any one woman could satisfy.
The day after he married Sybil in 1949, he met the 17-year-old actress Claire Bloom. And it wasn't long before he was sneaking into her bedroom as her mother slept in the room above. By sunrise, Burton was back by Sybil's side, telling her he'd been out drinking all night with friends.
When the couple moved to London, he was quickly using his Welsh charm to woo random women from pubs, restaurants, cinema queues and buses. If they were willing, Burton was only too happy to fulfil their sexual desires.
"He was Don Juan, and it was a necessity in his nature to have any female who was not under age or terribly ugly," remarked his close friend, actor Robert Hardy.
Women were entranced by his sweet, sonorous voice, glinting green eyes and his magnetic mischievous allure. However, Burton's weapon of choice when it came to seduction was his remarkable memory. Within moments of making contact with his prey he would whisper poetry and quote Shakespeare softly into their ear. In the highly unlikely event the target of his affections was left standing he would subtly serenade her, often in Welsh, until she could resist no more.
His charm, quick wit and lack of inhibition when fuelled by alcohol, meant he was a force of nature few women could resist.
Burton's sexual boldness was almost uncontrollable. When house guests of his wife's friends, Hollywood actor Stewart Granger and his wife Jean Simmons, he waited until Sybil was asleep before sneaking along the hallway fully aware Granger and Simmons slept in separate bedrooms.
Burton swept open Simmons's door, embraced her and made vigorous love to her on a big sheepskin rug, while her husband slept mere metres away.
Remarkably, when he signalled a relationship was over, the women he left behind were still besotted by him.
"I've watched some of his girls and you can see they're bewildered, first by their good luck -- and then by their loss," revealed producer Frank Ross. "Yet when he rejects them, they all go away. They act as though they've been momentarily blessed -- and that's enough for them."
However, if Burton's sexual appetite were allowed to run riot today, his career would have ended in tatters. His downfall would have been a pretty, young, dark-haired girl with a flawless complexion. He was 28 and married to Sybil when he first bumped into Rosemary Kingsland at a café opposite the Old Vic theatre where he was appearing in The Tempest back in 1954.
She began hanging around the stage door and after a few such encounters she was back in Burton's flat losing her virginity. Their relationship turned out to be one of his more lengthy affairs, even though she was a 14-year-old schoolgirl when they first met.
By the end of 1956 he paid her to have an abortion fearing he might be jailed. The affair eventually came to a natural end when the star moved to Switzerland.
When Burton arrived in Los Angeles in 1952, he suddenly had the opportunity to focus his charms on some of Hollywood's leading actresses. Those who quickly succumbed included his co-star in the sentimental 1955 film Prince Of Players, Maggie McNamara, and love goddess Lana Turner, who co-starred with Burton in The Rains Of Ranchipur.
But it wasn't only leading ladies who caught his roving eye. Commenting on his reputation for bedding extras,